For the past year, numerous organizations fought to keep their personal data protected from cyberthreats while they hurried to adapt to pandemic-focused shifts in operations and workforce. As cybercrime continues to grow more common, so does the sophistication and quantity of cyberattacks. A Statista report shows that there were over 300 million ransomware attacks in 2020.[1]

Handling a cybersecurity crisis is challenging and can cause uncertainty, particularly when the cyberattack involves financial and reputational damage. This is true for any organization, especially for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs). SMBs continue to be prime targets for hackers because hackers consider these types of organizations to have insufficient knowledge and resources to block and respond to attacks.

Today, it is more critical than ever for all business owners to safeguard their customer’s personal information, especially as we approach the holiday season. The holiday season is when individuals purchase more than any other time of the year, so keeping their data secure is paramount.

That’s where the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) finds relevance.

What’s the Importance of PCI-DSS?

Any organization that accepts payment cards, and handles, transmits, or retains payment card data must be compliant with PCI-DSS. PCI-DSS compliance is critical for data security because nearly every business accepts credit or debit card payments.

PCI-DSS’s directives restrict credit and debit card data loss risks. This helps prevent identity theft and includes best practices for recognizing, preventing, and resolving data incidents.

Compliance with PCI-DSS also protects an organization in the event of data breeches where cardholder data is exposed. SMBs compliant with PCI-DSS are recognized by Discover, Mastercard, Visa, JCB, and American Express, organizations that are pioneers in founding this information security standard.

Companies that fail to comply with PCI-DSS can encounter penalties that prevent them from handling card data.

PCI-DSS has 12 requirements:

  1. Business devices must have maintained firewalls

Firewalls are efficient at preventing unauthorized access to sensitive data. Anti-hacking systems like firewalls serve as one of the first lines of protection against intruders.

  1. Always change vendor-generated passwords

Generic passwords in products like routers and point of sale (POS) terminals are easily guessed by hackers. Organizations must change their vendor-supplied passwords and keep up with password-required equipment to be compliant with PCI-DSS.

  1. Consumer data transmission must be encrypted

The transfer of card data over open or public networks must be encrypted, and you should know where the data is sent and received.

  1. Only Use Updated Antivirus Software

Antivirus software is required on all systems, both off-site and on-site. To identify complicated viral threats, you must keep them updated routinely.

  1. Safeguard Stored Customer Data

It’s necessary that cardholder data is encrypted, tokenized, truncated, or hashed using industry-standard methods supported by a powerful encryption key management process.

  1. Consumer data should be restricted

Cardholder data access should be denied to anyone who doesn’t require it for necessary tasks.

  1. Keep secure systems and apps maintained

Ensure safety for all systems or applications that process, transmit, or store cardholder data.

  1. Cardholder data should only be available at a need-to-know basis

You’re required to have the ability to grant and restrict access to cardholder data systems for effective access control.

  1. Each person with business computer access needs a unique ID

Make sure every authorized user has a unique identifier and complex password. These measures ensure that access to cardholder data can be tracked back to recognized users, ensuring accountability.

  1. Supervise access to consumer data and network

Every system needs to have proper audit policies established with logs sent to a secure central server. Daily inspection of the logs helps identify suspicious activity and anomalies.

  1. Data security must be tested regularly

Regular testing ensures that your environment is adapting to meet the ever-changing threat landscape.

  1. Manage a data security policy

You need to have a policy for information security that is reviewed at least on an annual basis. This policy also needs to be communicated to all employees, contractors, and vendors.

The PCI Compliance Levels

PCI compliance has four levels that are determined by the number of transactions an organization processes each year.

Level 1 Merchants

These merchants process over six million card transactions annually (card present, card not present, eCommerce) through all channels.

Level 2 Merchants

These merchants process about one to six million card transactions annually (card present, card not present, eCommerce) through all channels.

Level 3 Merchants

These merchants process between 20,000 and one million card transactions annually through all channels (card present, card not present, eCommerce).

Level 4 Merchants

These merchants process anywhere up to one million card transactions each year across all channels card present, card not present, eCommerce), and do not have more than 20,000 card transactions per year processed only through eCommerce.

If you own or operate a business that accepts, transmits, or stores any cardholder data, you must take PCI-DSS seriously and adhere to all regulations.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re trying to understand everything on your own. Having an expert like us to work with gives you the benefit of having a compliance specialist in your corner. We conduct regular assessments for you to confirm compliance and make your compliance journey that much easier. Contact us to schedule a no-obligation consultation today.

[1] Staista